An Authentic Pilot’s Watch Designed By a Pilot – The Ultimate Holiday Gift?
Nowadays, commercial airline pilots have all the necessary timekeeping tools immediately in front of them, but this wasn’t always the case. A pilot’s watch used to be an essential.
Pilots once relied on these easily readable watches and utilized features such as chronographs to help them with their missions. Watch dials and complications were developed specifically with pilots in mind.
Pilot’s watches have been around for over 100 years, and the history of aviation and watchmaking are deeply intertwined. This heritage is often forgotten by today’s pilots, and that’s exactly what Francesco Calamai hopes to change.
Orologi Calamai – An Authentic Pilot’s Watch Brand
Calamai is a pilot and the founder of Orologi Calamai, an Italian watch brand that has already made its mark as a supplier of special chronographs to the Italian Air Force.
Francesco’s father, Giosuè Calamai, was a fighter pilot in the Royal Italian Air Force, and he instilled a passion for flight in his son at a young age.
Giosuè passion for flight may have arisen from his love for speed and adventure. He participated in two Mille Miglia, the famous open-road, motorsport endurance race, and became a circuit-racing champion in 1939.
In Giosuè’s experience, flying was another rugged endurance test. The aircraft he piloted was open-top with enormous, loud engines rumbling behind him.
He was awarded the Bronze and Silver Distinguished Service Cross and piloted such aircraft as the Fiat CR.32, Fiat CR.42, Fiat G.50, and the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Francesco, the younger Calamai, has been flying since he was 24 years old. His first solo flight took off from Florence’s Peretola Airport in a P64, and he hasn’t looked back since. Francesco has logged 1000 hours of flight time and specifically enjoys acrobatic flight, a desire for adrenaline he must have inherited from his father.
Calamai created Orologi Calamai to honor the spirit of flight, his love of watches, and the memory of Giosuè. And he’s done just that.
Watches Made from Jet Turbine Engines
While Orologi Calamai’s pilot watches feature the classic markers of a pilot’s watch, such as clear readability and the iconic triangle at the 12 o’clock hour, what makes these timepieces instant conversation pieces is what they’re made of – jet turbine engines.
The case of each Orologi Calamai watch is forged from the steel of an F-104 turbine. The back of the case displays a proud engraving with the serial number of the exact turbine used in its creation.
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a legendary military aircraft. Originally designed for the US Air Force, the fighter was later manufactured by other countries, including Italy. In fact, the final version of the aircraft was the F-104S, which was designed by Aeritalia for the Italian Air Force and armed with radar-guided missiles.
Powered by the General Electric engine, the F-104 has multiple airspeed and altitude records to its name, and the use of this steel brings an authentic aviation legacy to the watches of Orologi Calamai.
The models for the case are created in wax and then coated with thermosetting resins and cerarmic. The molten engines are then poured into the form and left to solidify.
Excess material is removed with great precision, and then each case is hand-finished for a touch of fine watchmaking.
Through this process, Orologi Calamai creates watches for pilots who are proud to be pilots. The meticulously crafted case design allows you to carry a piece of aviation history on your wrist, wielding it both as a tool and as a statement about your own piloting accomplishments and the places you’ve traveled.
The Chronograph G50 Freccia
Orologi Calamai has a great story to tell, but how do the watches hold up?
Airline Pilot Central wasn’t paid to write this article nor is this sponsored content, but Orologi Calamai was kind enough to send us a Chronograph G50 Freccia, so we can give you a hands-on review of this watch.
The G50, of course, is named after the Fiat G.50 Freccia airplane, flown by Giosuè Calamai.
The most prominent part of the G50 dial is the chronograph itself. There are three subdials, each one is recessed with a slight guilloché finish. The effect is almost imperceptible but subtly improves readability.
The subdial at 9 o’clock has the sweep of the small seconds hand powered by the automatic movement. The 60-second chronograph is in the center. And the 30-minute counter is at the 3 o’clock position.
The chronograph hand is the larger seconds hand. Overall, this is a very classic chronograph design.
The G50 also adds a date window between the 4 and 5 o’clock indices. This does increase the clutter a bit, but the standard date complication makes the G50 Freccia a useful everyday watch.
Fortunately, the business of the dial is made clearer with an intelligent use of color. The chronograph hand is tipped with red, and small markers in between the minutes are a light blue. The inner bezel features green and red markings.
The use of color may sound like a lot in writing, but it’s a subtle effect that helps the wearer to instantly identify all the necessary markings of the watch – a key aspect to what makes a pilot’s watch.
The dial is a very dark chocolate brown. Most times, it appears black, but in certain light, the brown pops and plays off the rich color on the leather strap.
Centered in the dial is the clever logo design for Orologi Calamai. A red icon of a plane makes an acrobatic swirl and spells out a “C” in its trail.
Of course, a true pilot’s watch must have the triangle positioned at the 12 o’clock. In the past, only indices (not the numbers) were made of luminous material. Thus, the iconic triangle became a functional method for pilots to instantly find the orientation of their watch in the dark without relying on numerals.
And speaking of visibility in the dark, Orologi Calamai has ensured that the G50 retains the utmost usability for pilots. In addition to the triangle marker and hour indices, the syringe hands also feature SuperLuminova.
You should have no problem finding your time in the absence of light. Ultimately, this is a real pilot’s watch, and its history as a tool first is evident. Orologi Calamai has done an excellent job using color and design to keep everything looking deceptively simple. You’ll enjoy looking at this dial while sitting in the cockpit.
As mentioned, the star of the show is the fact that this case was made with an actual jet engine. The case itself is a constant reminder for all pilots (commercial airline pilots, private plane pilots, and military pilots) of their unique ability to take part in one of humanity’s great achievements – taking flight.
The case finishing is brushed metal, the overarching theme to the G50 is that this is a pilot’s tool that just looks good.
The case features two pushers for the chronograph and a screw-down crown used to set the time and date. An additional crown on the left allows you to rotate the inner bezel, furthering the emphasis that this watch can perform as a useful tool if you need the functionality.
Both crowns feature the “C” logo, and the pushers operate with a very satisfying click. If you’re not timing your flight for fuel efficiency, you may just want to time how long it takes you to get between terminals. The chronograph is that enjoyable to use.
The crystal is sapphire glass for scratch resistance with an anti-reflective coating. While APC is fascinated by the history of pilot’s watches, we appreciate the decision to opt for a modern crystal.
The watch has a closed caseback with the logo as well.
The G50 case comes in at a modern 40mm diameter. Old-school pilot’s watches could traditionally go as large as 55mm, so it’s clear that Orologi Calamai knows when to embrace its history and when to let it go.
The G50 is 14.4mm thick, which is not unusual for automatic chronographs, but it may seem large at first for commercial airline pilots used to simple battery-powered watches or even thinner automatic dress watches.
The G50 is water resistant to 5ATM or 50 meters. Feel free to wash your hands, but this is a pilot’s watch, not a diver’s watch.
Orologi Calamai includes a thick brown leather strap made from Italian cowhide leather. The strap has a lighter brown contrast stitching, and the buckle features the “C” logo with the little airplane.
Overall, the brown with contrast stitch looks appropriately rugged, but if you prefer something different, the G50 has a convenient lug width of 20mm, making for an easy change to the aftermarket strap of your choice.
The G50 is an automatic watch, and because APC is not a watch blog, we should clarify that this means there are no batteries needed. Your watch operates mechanically using the gears within, and it’s powered by a spring and a rotor. The automatic watch will be powered by the movement of your wrist.
Younger pilots may rely on Apple watches or Casio G-Shocks, but among watch aficionados, mechanical watches are more desired and come at a higher premium than battery-powered quartz models. And as a statement piece dedicated to pilots, the G50 would feel awkward with anything besides a mechanical movement.
The specific movement that Orologi Calamai uses is the Sellita SW510 Top Grade. This is a reliable Swiss-made movement for a classic chronograph design, and it’s no surprise that the brand has chosen it to power their G50. The Sellita SW510 movement has 25 jewels with a 48-hour power reserve.
The watch itself comes in a light fleshtone leather box/pouch straight from Italy. The “C” logo with the plane is carved into the leather, and the box features two-tone stitching. It’s a classy touch.
Orologi Calamai also includes a booklet with the history of Giosuè, Francesco, and the Chronograph G50 pilot’s watch. This story is what’s most compelling about the brand, and it’s great to have it printed out with photographs as a keepsake to accompany the watch itself.
If it wasn’t already clear, Orologi Calamai that pays attention to the small details. And that’s something you want in a watchmaker.
The Chronograph G50 comes in at 2,450€ (Euros) which converts to about $2,715 in US dollars.
If you are interested in purchasing one, you can click here to find the watch on Orologi Calamai’s website.
The G50 is a fantastic conversation piece for today’s pilots. The case is made of an actual engine with the serial number to prove it. The design of the watch stays authentic to the legacy of pilot’s watches while updating the timepiece to modern standards, and the brand has a personal history running through the Calamai family of pilots.
This is a watch you can kick back and stare at the dial in the cockpit or proudly wear as a symbol of your own professional development. Airline Pilot Central recommends the Orologi Calamai G50 as a perfect gift for airline pilots this holiday season.